I got home yesterday to find a letter from my grandpa had arrived. I was thrilled.
We live in an age when hand written communication is going by the wayside. We call, we fax, we e-mail, we instant message, and we text message. We hardly ever sit down and actually write out, in longhand, what we want to say… and then to follow that up with taking the time to put it in an envelope, address it, put a stamp on it, and mail it. Unheard of.
So grandpa… thanks. I loved getting a letter from you. And, I had no trouble reading it either, as you had imagined I might. In fact, I read it aloud to Karen as she made dinner last night. It was fantastic.
Getting the letter made me think about my grandfather… and there’s so much I could say about him. Like, I wonder if he knows he’s the axis at the center of things in our family. I wonder if he realizes he’s where we all get our incredible sense of what’s right, our wonderful sense of play, and our good hearted and good natured demeanor. Because, amazingly enough, down to the last of the 60 of us, we are all both good natured and good hearted. It’s incredible really, the way we all look at life as a big adventure while at the same time keeping that balanced with a strong sense of responsibility. How did that happen, how did we get so lucky. Personally, I think it started at the top. It was grandpa. Grandpa and grandma.
It is luck really, to be born into such a family. This brood of fun loving, intelligent, interested, educated (and I don’t mean just formally), curious, playful, music loving, genuinely nice, thinking, eclectic, sincere people. And I say to myself… thank God I drew this lot. Thank you thank you.
I think about all of us, the line of us, and at the pinnacle is grandpa. He is the embodiment of everything we strive to be. And I know, if he’s reading this, being the guy he is, he won’t take credit for too much of who we’ve become… but he should. He was the example we all gauged our lives by… and in fact, he still is, and we still do.
He worked hard to support a family of 9, and I don’t think anyone has ever heard him complain about it. Ever. Not only that, through all of those years, he was a true partner to my grandma. They had, at least to an outside eye, a near perfect balance. He was the calm, always, in any storm. Level headed, easy going, and generous with his time, and his attention. As he still is.
One of the most amazing things about him is the glint in his eyes. He has a bit of mischief in him, and always a bit of fun. No matter what he’s doing, when I’ve been with him at least, he seems to enjoy himself… to find the fun. He gets life, knows what’s important, and loves it. To see that glint is to know he enjoys every day, and sees it as a gift. At least, I feel like he always has, and even if that’s not true, he made me feel that every time I was and have been with him, which is incredible.
I think about grandpa and I feel this overwhelming sense of pride. Pride because he’s my grandfather, pride because he raised my mother and her siblings to be who they are, and pride because I get to be a part of that… a part of this amazing history we are making every day. What’s more, I feel like grandpa has always understood me… like he’s always seen the real me. He’s always seemed to know what made me tick, and he has always been genuinely interested in what I had to say, even when I was very young. I’ve learned so much from him. Not just how to tie my shoes, which he did teach me, or how to play chess or backgammon, but what it means to be accepting, generous of spirit, and emotional. In fact, I’m getting emotional now… writing all of this and thinking about him. It’s how I am. I think about what makes me proud or happy or how much I love the people in my life and I get teary…. which, I guess, is something else I got from him. He is truly a grand self possessed man.
Lastly, there’s something else that when talking about grandpa a person can’t ignore or leave out… music and dance. He has played music nearly all of his life it seems, from the time he was a young man. Piano is his instrument of choice. He didn’t learn to read music, but instead listened, and then played. He loves it, completely, and has a style that is all his own and instantly engaging. Largely because of him music has always been a part of our lives, the love of it passed down from one generation to the next. Many of us have learned to play an instrument, or sing, or just to appreciate all kinds of music, the sounds of it playing around us most of our days. And for the gift of that, of making and listening to music, I am immeasurably grateful to him. The joy it brings, the center, the peace… he understands that, and has helped us to understand it as well. Besides playing and listening though, my grandpa also loves to dance. He relishes it, most especially now with his daughters and granddaughters. And when you partner him it’s as if you are transported to another place, forced to let go of everything in life expect for the moment you’re in with him… following him and moving to his own personal rhythm. It’s a wondrous thing. To get the honor of dancing with him, anytime… it’s jumping into life with both feet, letting go, and holding on… all at once. His love of it has been infectious, lovely, and yet another lesson in living life to the fullest.
It’s hard to sum up your feelings for and about someone, but I guess I’ll just say this… to know him is to respect and care about him, and to be his granddaughter is, in a word, breathtaking. He’s taught me so much about life, living well, what it means to be a good person, and fun. He is, without a doubt, one of the best people I have ever met. In fact, he could easily be the best person I have ever met. And lucky me… he’s not just some amazing guy I know… he’s my grandpa.